May 25, 2010

Thief-stopping Wal-Mart worker is fired

Heather Ravenstein tried to save Wal-Mart some money Friday by foiling a shoplifter's plan to steal a $600 computer, but it cost Ravenstein her job.

"I'm a single mom, and I don't know what I'm going to do," Ravenstein, 30, said Monday.

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said late Monday afternoon that Ravenstein was fired because she violated company policy.

Ravenstein said she worked at the West Kellogg Walmart for almost two years, most recently as a customer service manager.

Friday night around 10:20, she was standing near some registers when she saw a man with a computer coming up the main walkway of the store.

"Action Alley is what they call it," she said.

"He was walking rather fast, so it caught my eye."

Ravenstein said the man kept walking and set off an alarm. She went after him.

"Let me see your receipt, and then I'll take this off for you," she told the man, referring to a sensor on the computer.

Ravenstein said the man refused and kicked her.

"And then he punched me in my shoulder, and then he finally gave up and just let go of the computer," she said.

Ravenstein walked back into the store and sat on the floor.

"I was shaking pretty bad," she said.

Assistant store managers immediately checked on her.

"They all came out and made sure I was OK," Ravenstein said. "They thanked me."

The next day, about two hours before her shift was over, Ravenstein said an assistant manager asked to speak with her. He then told her it's against Wal-Mart policy for anyone but a manager or someone in asset protection to try to stop a customer from stealing.

"He said there's really no gray area," Ravenstein said. "It just goes straight to termination."

She said she was told to turn in her badges and keys.

"I was in shock at first," Ravenstein said. "I didn't think anything like this would happen."

Nor did she know about the policy.

"I've never heard of it," Ravenstein said.

When asked about the situation, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Anna Taylor e-mailed this response:

"While we appreciate her intentions, Ms. Ravenstein's actions put her safety — and perhaps the safety of our customers — in jeopardy and, in the process, violated company policy as it pertains to how we treat people in our stores. As an unfortunate result of these circumstances, Ms. Ravenstein is no longer employed by our company."

Ravenstein filed for unemployment Monday.

"The main thing is I'm worried about my son," Ravenstein said of her 4-year-old, TJ.

She said she would like to go to school to work in the medical field, perhaps as a nurse. She wants "a career, not just a job."

For now, though, Ravenstein said she simply needs to make money, and it's not likely to be in retail.

"After this experience, no," she said. "Probably not."

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